JHU Collaborative Projects
One of APL's unique strengths is its ability to draw on partners and experts in other specialized fields to address a wide array of challenges and missions for our sponsors. These interdisciplinary collaborations reach across the spectrum of Johns Hopkins and include the Whiting School of Engineering, Johns Hopkins Hospital, the School of Medicine, the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, the Bloomberg School of Public Health, and the Carey Business School.
Biomaterials for Casualty Care
In the military and battlefield environments, one major medical concern is the high prevalence of both penetrating and non-penetrating ocular injuries. A team of scientists from APL and physicians from the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins Hospital are working on a project that is intended to deliver more effective care to soldiers' injured eyes. Funded by the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, the Eye PATCH (Protection and Treatment for Combat Healing) program aims to develop a bioengineered bandage and adhesive for the primary treatment of ocular trauma, in a device that can be applied by a non-expert provider in a battlefield situation. Other goals are to develop a stronger, bioengineered membrane to guide ocular reconstruction surgery after complex injury, as well as adding the capability to deliver medications to these new adhesives and membranes. To date, materials developed under Eye PATCH have been used (in tissue research) to repair ocular injuries measuring 6 millimeters in diameter, or 20 millimeters in length, without the need for sutures.
Detecting Airborne Explosives with Organic Field-Effect Transistors
Creating accurate and dependable technologies to help security personnel quickly detect explosives is a difficult endeavor—no device has yet been invented that can approach the sensitivity of a dog's nose. However, with funding from the National Science Foundation, researchers from APL and the Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering are modifying organic transistors within organic field-effect transistors (OFETs) to produce electronic signals in the presence of vapors related to nerve agents and explosives. These organic transistors are matched with compatible compounds that bind to those vapors and are deposited onto the OFET as ultrathin films just a few layers in height—a crucial physical aspect of their effectiveness. The new OFETs are incredibly sensitive and show changed currents when the target vapors are present at levels of less than 1 part per million, a significant improvement over current vapor-sensing technologies.
Computer-Assisted Femoral Augmentation with Biomechanical Feedback
Osteoporosis is an increasingly prevalent bone disease that causes some 1.2 million bone fractures in the United States each year, and hip fractures in elderly patients with osteoporosis are tied to mortality rates (within 1 year of fracture) as high as 30%. One way to drastically reduce the risk of hip fracture is a surgical procedure known as a femoral augmentation, in which a cement-like material is injected into the femur to strengthen it (the upper part of the femur is involved in roughly half of all hip fractures). APL researchers lead a continuing collaboration with the JHU Whiting School of Engineering and Johns Hopkins Medicine's Bayview Medical Center to develop a computer-assisted surgical system for the minimally invasive femoral augmentation. The system includes a biomechanical-based planning stage, a motorized injection system, and real-time navigation for intraoperative guidance and injection system feedback. APL is developing the mechanical and software systems, augmentation material distribution modeling is being done at the Whiting School, and physical testing of procedures takes place at Bayview.
Applied Language Exploration
One of the most intriguing challenges facing APL researchers is the attempt to create automated language-processing software that can translate and decipher human speech into usable data. This past summer, the JHU Human Language Technology Center of Excellence in Baltimore hosted a 10-week-long Summer Camp for Applied Language Exploration (SCALE). Led in part by APL researchers, this government-sponsored program focused on methods of discovering information from speech and text data.